AUTECHRE: UNTILTED (2005)
1) LCC; 2) Ipacial Section; 3) Pro Radii; 4) Augmatic Disport; 5) Iera; 6) Fermium; 7) The Trees; 8) Sublimit.
No news may be good news, but not for the unhappy reviewer. How am I supposed to stress this record's individuality over that of Draft 7.30? Am I really supposed to make good friends with these beats, measure their individual pulses, check their individual temperatures, and tuck each one inside his individual bed of a one-two phrase description? This is definitely not something I remember myself signing for on that unhappy day when I broke my «no electronics!» vow by acquiring the entire Tangerine Dream catalog.
All I can really say is that Untilted is, once again, closer in spirit to Confield: with Draft 7.30, it might have looked like Booth and Brown were taking one step back and reintegrating some minimalistic melodicity into the package, but now the domain of the computer blip has won this next battle, so prepare yourself for seventy more minutes from the life of the microchip. And it does not even look like the microchip is leading an interesting life these days. No, just the same old routine — get up at 7:00 AM, a bath, a shave, some quick breakfast with the wife, commute to work, get installed, operate, calculate, lunch break, back to work again... everything happening in a rather fussy way, of course, but it's all normal, predictable, everyday fuss.
On second thought, some of these beats are indeed programmed in almost ridiculously complex ways. Something like ʽIpacial Sectionʼ or ʽAugmatic Disportʼ could never even remotely be approached by a human being — the same way no human being could ever beat the machine at counting out chess move combinations. But this does raise the question of whether electronic music that may not be replicated or interpreted by a human being can actually be enjoyed by one. These robotic pulsations neither follow our natural rhythms (be it any standard pattern of the 4/4 or 3/4 types), nor do they provide sick deviations to which, after a bit of training, we can attune our rhythms (in a Captain Beefheart fashion). They are simply too much for the nervous system to handle — and end up as «curious intellectual achievements» with no purpose other than showing off one's professionalism.
The only track here which barely hints at a human touch is ʽFermiumʼ, where the beats suddenly become less complex and a little more «trance-inducing» in the good old sense of the word (although it still gets way too messy towards the end). And I only write this because, once its cycles started rolling in, it was the only moment on the album that actually made a brief swipe at my attention center. Everything else was just totally non-descript. What used to be «magical» is now perfunctory and boring; what used to be «curious» is now predictable.
Hence, one more thumbs down. I used to wonder how the heck these kinds of albums mostly get 5-star ratings and rave reviews on Amazon and other such sites — before realizing, of course, that nobody will ever get interested in a new Autechre album outside of the duo's hardened, devoted, but very, very small handful of admirers, those who have done a fine job of rewiring their brains towards «The Future» or «The Alternate Reality», as they see it. For me, though, the biggest problem is that this alternate reality, once you have already broken through, unpacked your tent, and are now beginning to hang your family's portraits on the wall, is pretty damn hard to keep yourself excited about.
Check "Untilted" (MP3) on Amazon